BOCA RATON -- With Joe Paterno's health reportedly taking a turn for the worse Saturday night, two longtime college football colleagues -- Bobby Bowden and Howard Schnellenberger -- shared their concern for the 85-year old former Penn State coach.
Paterno, hospitalized since Jan. 13 for observation of what his family had called minor complications from lung cancer treatments, has experienced further health complications according to a family spokesman and his status is now considered serious.
Bowden and Schnellenberger, coaching in the inaugural Battle of Florida all-star game at FAU Stadium, were surprised and saddened when told of Paterno's condition about an hour before kickoff.
"I'm distraught that this is happening to him," said Schnellenberger, 77, who went 2-1 against Paterno when he coached against him at the University of Miami.
"All of this happened to him so fast. I hope he can pull through it if he has the ability or the chance to improve. The University of Miami's successes are tied real closely to him, the games we played together. We played three times. Everyone of them was a big struggle knowing we were going up against the best coach in America. The last two months have been a terrible thing [for him]."
Paterno, Division I's all-time winningest coach, was diagnosed with cancer in November, days after getting ousted as head coach in the aftermath of the child sex abuse charges against former assistant Jerry Sandusky.
"Oh, I hope not," Bowden, 82, said when he was told Paterno's health had worsened.
"I've known Joe forever. I've known him personally since 1966. The first time I met him was 1962. We've always been very close. We're close to the same age. He's just one of the best coaches ever. I felt like he would go down as probably the best ever, but after this little thing it kind of tainted it. But I'm sorry it happened. I hate it happened. I hate to see something happen to Joe."
Paterno won two national championships and a Division I record 409 games over 46 seasons at Penn State and the family has donated millions of dollars to the school.
This was his second trip to the hospital in a month. He's also recovering from a broken pelvis that required a weeklong stay to make it easier for cancer treatments. Paterno first hurt his pelvis in August when he was accidentally bowled over by a player in preseason practice. The injury forced the Hall of Famer to spend most of the season coaching from the press box - until trustees dismissed him Nov. 9, four days after Sandusky was first charged.
Asked what he will remember most about Paterno, Bowden said: "Just remember the good things. I don't remember the bad things. He didn't have many bad things. I would only remember the good things. He and I spent a lot of time together. We played him 10 times at West Virginia and played him twice when I was at Florida State in bowls. I never beat him in Pennsylvania. He had too many good players."
Said Schnellenberger: "The thing you remember about Joe is that even though he had a lot of good things going for him at that particular school and that particular state and that particular level of football, until they got into the Big Ten, he was always a winner with class. You very seldom found some reason to get upset with him. He was kind of a model citizen as a coach."